Bourbon Feed

A Drink for Iron Man -- The Stark

In the superhero universe Tony Stark is Iron Man.  Played by Robert Downey, Jr. in the eponymous movies and the Avengers movies, Tony Stark combines technological genius with style and a devil may care attitude. The Stark cocktail has nothing to do with Iron Man, at least not that I've found. I discovered it on the Cocktail Detour site. Fortunately you don't need to be a genius to make it.

Stark1.5 ounces bourbon
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
.5 ounces honey syrup
Juice from 1/4 lemon
Angostura bitters

Combine everything except the bitters in a shaker, shake like you're Iron Man hurtling through the sky (or you're competing in an Ironman triathlon), strain into a chilled glass, and add the bitters on top.

The Stark is a nice combination of boozy, sweet, and sour tastes.  The bourbon brings the booze, the yellow Chartreuse (which you'll see in drinks such as the Naked and Famous and the Renegade) brings the booze and a little bit of sweet, the honey syrup (which you'll see in drinks such as the Mexicillin and A Thief In The Night) adds a little more sweet, and the fresh lemon juice (you are using fresh juice, right?) brings just enough sour.

Even though I am not a big fan of comic book movies (Ms. Cocktail Den is), I do like many of them.  Similarly, even though Iron Man is not my favorite Avenger (Captain America is, see the Whiskey Smash), I do like his character. Like its unintended namesake, the Stark is a combination of cocktail genius, style, and attitude.


Italian And Not Really "Bitter" -- The Amaretto Sour

In celebration of National Amaretto Day, the Amaretto Sour pays homage to this ubiquitous liqueur. The Italian word roughly means "little bitter."  However, amaretto liqueur is quite sweet. Traditionally it's made from bitter almonds, but some versions also incorporate apricot pits. The history behind the Amaretto Sour is unknown.  The standard recipe (amaretto, lemon juice, and simple syrup, or God forbid some sour mix) is too sweet for me, so I prefer this very minor adaptation of an enhanced recipe from the renowned Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

Amaretto Sour1.5 ounces amaretto
.75 ounces bourbon (preferably at least 100 proof)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
.25 ounces super simple syrup
1 egg white

Combine everything except the egg white in a shaker with ice, reverse dry shake (see Shake, Shake, Shake your Egg Whites) with stereotypical Italian exuberance (you can put everything in the shaker all at once, but reverse dry shaking is worth the effort), and strain into a chilled glass.

As you might think, this Amaretto Sour is reminiscent of the Whiskey Sour and its variations such as the Midnight Train and the Icelandic Sour.  In some respects it also is reminiscent of the Stiletto. The bourbon keeps the Amaretto Sour from becoming overpoweringly sweet.  The egg white gives the Amaretto Sour a richer flavor and protein boost (Morgenthaler uses 1/2 of an egg white, but for me it's easier to use all of it), which makes the cocktail sort of ... healthy?

Despite it sweet base, this Amaretto Sour isn't all that sweet.  It's not bitter, it's buonissimo!


Et Tu, Cocktail? -- The Ides Of March

The Ides of March refers to March 15.  That's the day Roman senators stabbed and assassinated Julius Caesar.  In the eponymous play by William Shakespeare, Caesar does not heed the soothsayer who warns him to "beware the Ides of March." Shakespeare did not create the Ides of March.  That honor goes to my fellow cocktail enthusiast Michael Bounds.

Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).
Veni, vidi, bibi (I came, I saw, I drank).

1.5 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Aperol
.75 ounces blood orange syrup (see below)
Juice from 1/8 lemon

Combine in a shaker with ice, shake with the ferocity of stabbing your mortal enemy, and strain into a chilled glass. Lemon twist garnish optional.

The Ides of March is a nice mix of American (bourbon) and Italian (Aperol). Aperol is a lighter, orange flavored, and easily accessible amaro used in other drinks such as the Part-Time Lover.  The blood orange syrup can be trickier.  There are a number of ways to make it.  I must confess that when I was in the middle of making the syrup, I forgot how Bounds made it, so I improvised.  I used the same method as I use to make glorious grenadine. If you have to use processed blood orange juice for the syrup, see how sweet it is and adjust the proportions as needed.

Unlike Brutus, who betrays Caesar (his recognition of Brutus is what sparks the line "et tu, Brute" ("and you, Brutus?")), the Ides of March will not betray your taste buds or your liver. As Brits like James Bond might say (especially amusing because he has a license to kill -- get it?), cheers!


Dare To Be Different -- The Renegade

Sometimes the word renegade has a bad connotation, e.g. the wanted man in the classic Styx song.  Sometimes history ultimately vindicates renegades because they dared to be different.  The word comes from the Latin renegare, which means to deny or renounce.  The Renegade cocktail isn't nearly as old as the word.  Thanks to Sara Rosales for creating it in 2013 and posting it on the Kindred Cocktails site.

Renegade 21 ounce bourbon
1 ounce mezcal
.75 ounces yellow Chartreuse
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash Angostura bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the confidence that it takes to be a you know what, and strain into a chilled glass.  Orange twist garnish optional.

Like a true renegade, the Renegade stands out because of its high powered mix of bourbon and mezcal (similar to tequila because it comes from the agave plant, but smokier because of how you make it).  The yellow Chartreuse (sweeter and less potent than the green version) keeps you from ending up like the man in the Styx tune (he's about to hang on the gallows). If you want to be a renegade with a Renegade, change up the bitters.  For example, you can use the orange and juniper bitters from Bittered Sling and the aromatic bitters from Embitterment.

Does this combination of ingredients look a little weird?  Yes it does.  Just remember the motto of the elite British Special Air Service -- who dares, wins. 

Renounce weak cocktails, dare to have a Renegade, and win.


BYOB -- Bottle Your Own Bourbon

BYOB 1Over the years I've consumed plenty of bourbon, but this month (which happens to be National Bourbon Heritage Month) was a first -- this time I got to bottle my own bourbon.  Falls Church Distillers, a new distillery located in Falls Church, Virginia, recently hosted a bourbon bottling party.  My wife (Ms. Cocktail Den) and I participated in all aspects of the bottling process from cleaning it, pouring bourbon into it, sealing it, and labeling it. It's a win win for everyone -- Falls Church Distillers gets some free labor, and you get a fun experience.

BYOB 2During the event we got to meet the father-son team behind the operation.  Michael (the father and CEO) and Lorenzo (the son and head distiller) Paluzzi are smart and engaging.  It's exciting to watch, and briefly be a small part of, a new business taking flight.  I use that term deliberately, as Michael is a U.S. Air Force veteran.

So what about the bourbon?  Forget about tasting notes (identifying flavors is not my forte) and let's cut to the chase -- it's smooth and will work well in cocktails.  It's a little over three years old, which it makes it relatively young by bourbon standards.  Some bourbon drinkers might find it a little too mellow, but that may be due to its youth. 

If you get a chance to BYOB, do it. 

 


Unsung Cocktail Heroes -- Bitters, Vermouth, and Liqueurs

Reading about unsung cocktail heroes is good, but why read when you can listen?  Eric Kozlik, the CEO of Modern Bar Cart, interviewed me for his podcast.  It was a great experience. Here's our conversation about bitters, vermouth, and liqueurs (it's episode #8).        

Modern Bar Cart podcast 2Eric has interviewed a lot of really interesting people about some great cocktail subjects, so I encourage you to listen to the other episodes. I've learned a lot by listening to them. You probably will, too.  The podcast is a wonderful example of connecting over cocktails.  Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den and I met Eric at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans, and we reconnected at an event in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

Our podcast episode (you can listen below) covers a lot of topics such as how James Bond disrupted the Martini, and what I would order if I could drink with my late grandfathers. We also discussed general cocktail categories such as amari (bitter liqueurs), and specific cocktails like the Manhattan, the Ward 8, and the Derby.

If you listen to the episode, keep this in mind -- I wasn't kidding.  I have walked alone through the yard of a maximum security federal prison.  No, I was not incarcerated. Want to the hear the story? Buy me a good cocktail.


Six Shot Fluidity -- The Revolver

RevolverLet's get one thing out of the way -- this excellent cocktail does not consist of six shots.  A drink that large would drop you like the business end of a real revolver.  The Revolver contains almost two shots of booze. Jon Santer created it in San Francisco, which is where the fictional Detective "Dirty Harry" Callahan used a .44 Magnum revolver to take down criminals.

2 ounces bourbon (preferably Bulleit -- get it?)
.5 ounces Kahlua or coffee liqueur
2 dashes orange bitters (I used Embitterment)

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with the steady bang bang rhythm of firing a you know what, and strain into a chilled glass.

The Revolver is a little sweet, even if you use a slightly spicier bourbon like Bulleit.  Of course, don't make the mistake of conflating sweetness with weakness (that's a general rule in life in my opinion).  Some people think a drink that is sweet or a "girly" color has to be weak.  Those people are wrong.  

My musical preferences run the gamut, but rock n' roll generally is my favorite.  Keeping that in mind, I suggest the following as musical accompaniment to the Revolver --   specific tunes from Aerosmith (Janie's Got a Gun) or Lynyrd Skynyrd (Saturday Night Special), anything by .38 Special, or what is arguably Pat Benatar's most popular song (Hit Me With Your Best Shot).

Now that you're interested in a Revolver, I will channel Dirty Harry Callahan and ask one question -- do you feel lucky, punk?


A Smashing Success With Booze -- The Intense Smashed Julep

It's the time of year when many Americans briefly focus on horse racing.  And what cocktail is associated with the Kentucky Derby, the most famous race?  That's right -- the Mint Julep.  There's certainly nothing wrong with having a Mint Julep or two, but winners don't always stay with the pack. Break from the pack and try an Intense Smashed Julep.  

Intense Smashed Julep2 ounces bourbon
1 ounce Barrow's Intense ginger liqueur
1/4 lime cut into small pieces
4-5 mint leaves

Muddle the mint and lime at the bottom of the shaker, add ice and the other ingredients, shake like you're thundering down the homestretch, and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.  Mint garnish optional.

There's no super simple syrup in the Intense Smashed Julep.  The Barrow's Intense (disclosure -- I am a very small investor) brings some sweetness and a noticeable ginger taste to the drink.  The Intense Smashed Julep is a mashup (smashup?) of the traditional Mint Julep, the Whiskey Smash, and the Intense Ginger Mint Julep.  If it isn't sweet enough for you, go ahead and add a little super simple syrup.       

Describing a cocktail as a smashed julep is sort of redundant.  Technically speaking a smash is a class of cocktails and a julep (the word derives from an old Persian word for rose water) is a subset of a smash.  As I understand it, a julep contains a spirit, sweetener, herb, and ice, and a smash contains all of those things and fruit.  In other words, all smashes are juleps, but not all juleps are smashes.  

But enough of this horsing around with cocktail semantics.  Have fun, get Intense, and get smashed. 


To E Or Not To E -- Spelling Whisky/Whiskey

Whisky or whiskey?  Which spelling is correct?  Both.  In honor of International Whisk(e)y Day, I figured I would clear up this issue.  Spelling the word is a matter of geography.  It generally corresponds to where one distills the spirit.  Thanks to Jeff Cioletti and his wonderful book The Year of Drinking Adventurously for this concise summary:

Whisk(e)yWhisky -- Scotland, Japan, Canada
Whiskey -- United States of America, Ireland

Let's move from spelling to etymology (a fancy term for a word's origin).  What does whisk(e)y mean? It comes from an Irish Gaelic or Scottish word that means "water of life."

Celebrate International Whisk(e)y Day by incorporating the spirit into a cocktail, whether it's a classic such as a Manhattan or Whiskey Sour, an underrated drink such as a Derby or Fireside Chat, or an original creation such as a Cancer Killer #1 or Whiskey Queen. Cheers!


The Whiskey Queen

Who is the Whiskey Queen?  My lovely wife, aka Ms. Wulf Cocktail Den, aka the Den's taste tester and social media consultant.  The tradition of kicking the new year off with a new original creation continues.  My wife is a Whiskey Woman, Bourbon Babe, and Scotch Siren (I definitely would see superhero films with those characters).  She is particularly fond of bourbon and Scotch, so the Whiskey Queen incorporates both of them.

Whiskey Queen1.5 ounces bourbon (Bulleit or Willett is fit for a queen)
.75 ounces blended Scotch (Monkey Shoulder is regal)
.75 ounces Benedictine DOM
2 dashes Bittered Sling peach bitters or other peach bitters

Combine in a shaker with ice, stir with a true queen's combination of badass power and majestic grace, and strain into a chilled martini or coupe glass.

Use your favorite bourbon, but stay away from ones that are more than 100 proof.  The Whiskey Queen should be strong, not lethal.  Similarly, using a blended Scotch instead of a single malt Scotch (especially one that is smoky) will reduce the odds of the cocktail going the way of Anne Boleyn. I used Benedictine because, like the peach bitters, it is a component of the Royalist, a great similarly themed cocktail.  Don't let the herbal sweetness fool you -- Benedictine's alcohol content makes it almost as strong as bourbon or Scotch.  You can (and should) get peach bitters online, and Bittered Slling makes the best product.

Whether your taste runs towards queens of the Elizabeth II variety or the Freddie Mercury variety (get it?), the Whiskey Queen is a tribute to the queen or king in your life.

Celebrate their Majesty!